A little innovation needed in the juice aisle


Growing competition from new drinks and health concerns about sugar and calorie count are creating challenges for the juice market, said Stefani LiDestri, chief marketing officer for LiDestri Food, Beverage and Spirits Inc., Fairport, N.Y., citing figures from a November 2014 report from global market research firm Mintel that shows an inflation-adjusted 9 percent drop in U.S. sector sales.

“This slide will almost certainly continue without innovation that moves packaged juice beyond the breakfast table and positions it as a portable, healthful snack that satisfies at any time of day,” she pointed out.

The few bright spots in the juice category are the more innovative segments, where products are being positioned to address these challenges, LiDestri noted. Smoothies have been successful, for example, by being positioned as nutrient-rich, anytime snacks. Although they make up only 5 percent of the overall category, smoothies saw their dollar sales grow by 35 percent between 2012 and 2014, according to Mintel.

U.S. juice market observers need only see what is selling to discover what piques consumers’ thirst, LiDestri pointed out. The current “standard-issue” array of various citrus, apple and cranberry juices stands in stark contrast to the colorful and intriguing wall of imported innovations, many of them packaged in cartons, which showcase the innovative offerings that much of the rest of the world gets and has come to expect.

Varied formulations such as coconut-water-juice blends and trending superfruit and salad smoothies point to more healthful and interesting ways to hydrate and nutrient-load than the prosaic juices and nectars that dominate the U.S. market, LiDestri noted.

As for packaging these beverages, aseptic packaging makes a suitable option.

“Aseptic processing is optimal for these new breeds of beverages for a variety of reasons, the first being taste,” LiDestri said. “Secondly, it pays for producers to consider packaging in tandem with formulation innovations.”

Aseptic processing and packaging are gentler on natural flavors and nutrients, making them suitable for preserving the flavor of juices, nectars and smoothies, LiDestri explained. And because the technology protects products without requiring preservatives, it addresses the increasing consumer interest in natural, healthful products. Finally, aseptic cartons have fully printable facades that offer a billboard effect for bright colors and eye-catching graphics, as well as compact silhouettes that let retailers fit more products on shelves.